Children play in front of the Coricancha Inca Temple in the city of Cuzco February 2, 2009. REUTERS/Enrique Castro-Mendivil
Researchers at an archeological site in northern Peru have made an unusually large discovery of nearly three dozen people sacrificed some 600 years ago by the Incan civilization.
The bodies, some of which show signs of having been cut along their necks and collarbones, were otherwise found in good condition, said Carlos Webster, who is leading excavations at the Chotuna-Chornancap camp.
The sprawling 235-acre (95-hectare) archeological site is 12 miles outside the coastal city of Chiclayo, near the ancient tomb of Sipan, which was one of the great finds of the last century. The sacrifices were made just decades before Spanish explorers arrived in what is now Peru.
Although archeologists regularly find evidence of human sacrifice from Incan and pre-Incan cultures, it is rare to find the remains of 33 people in one place, researchers said.
Scientists say human sacrifice was common within the Incan culture, which flourished immediately before the arrival of the Spanish in what is now parts of Peru, Chile and Ecuador between 1400 and the mid-1500s.
"Most of the remains belong to young women, around 15 years of age. One of them appears to have been pregnant because in her abdomen, the collarbone of a fetus, probably around 4 months, was found," Webster said of the latest find, made over the past year and a half.
"The majority (of the bodies) are in good condition -- skin tissues and hair have been preserved. They were found in a dry area more than 7 feet underground," he said.
Incan civilization is best known for the city of Machu Picchu, the ruins of which are Peru's top tourist destination and considered one of the new seven wonders of the world.
(Reporting by Marco Aquino; Writing by Dana Ford; Editing by Peter Cooney)